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Economy in Brief

U.S. State Unemployment Rates Vary from 2.7% to 6.7%
by Tom Moeller  July 22, 2016

The decline in the overall U.S. unemployment rate has stabilized this year, averaging 4.9% versus 5.3% during 2015. It still was half its late-2009 peak, and great variation amongst individual states continued.

In today's state labor market report for June, unemployment in Alaska continued to top the chart at 6.7% versus 6.9% during all of last year. Unemployment in a few larger states, however, also was high. Illinois was high with a 6.2% unemployment rate, and a 6.4% average this year. That was higher than the 5.8% low during Q3'15. The 6.2% unemployment rate in Alabama also was elevated compared to other states, but has been stable since early last year. Moving northward, Pennsylvania's 5.6% jobless rate was elevated versus the 4.7% low averaged in Q4'15. Unemployment in California also remained high relative to the overall average, but its decline over to 5.4% from 6.4% one year ago has been steady.

Comparatively high unemployment rates also were logged in other large states, notably Georgia. Its 5.1% unemployment rate is down from roughly 6.0% early last year. New Jersey, however, has seen a different pattern develop. It's 5.1% jobless rate in June was low compared to other large states, but it has risen from 4.4% averaged in Q1'16. Ohio has seen a similar pattern develop as its 5.0% jobless rate was up versus 4.6% averaged in Q3'15.

At the low end of the scale, Iowa realized a 4.0% rate of unemployment, but that was up versus 3.6% averaged during all of last year. Continuing to decline, however, was unemployment in Virginia. It's 3.7% unemployment rate was down from 4.8% early last year. Colorado also recently realized a slight uptick in unemployment to 3.7% from a 3.0% low, but the decline in joblessness to 2.8% in New Hampshire has been fairly steady. Unemployment's decline to 2.7% in South Dakota also has been fairly steady.

In several large cities, unemployment hovers above the state average. That was true in Detroit where 5.1% unemployment was higher than 4.6% averaged in Michigan. Similarly, in New York City, its jobless rate of 5.0% was above the state's average of 4.7%. Miami's unemployment rate of 5.3% also was above the state's average of 4.7%. Working the other, however, was Washington state where the unemployment rate of 5.8% was above the Seattle metro area's of 4.6%.

State unemployment figures are available in Haver's EMPLR database.

Jun May 2015 2014 2013 Labor Force

Total U.S. Unemployment Rate

4.9% 4.7% 5.3 6.2 7.4% 158.9 million

Ten States With Highest Jobless Rate

  Alaska 6.7 6.7 6.5 6.9 5.9 0.4
  Illinois 6.2 6.4 5.9 7.0 8.9 6.7
  Louisiana 6.2 6.3 6.2 6.3 6.5 2.2
  Alabama 6.0 6.0 6.1 6.7 7.1 2.1
  Washington 5.8 5.8 5.7 6.1 6.9 3.5
  Connecticut 5.8 5.7 5.6 6.6 7.7 1.9
  Arizona 5.8 5.6 6.1 6.7 7.5 3.0
  Pennsylvania 5.6 5.5 5.0 5.8 7.1 6.4
  California 5.4 5.2 6.3 7.5 8.8 19.0
  Georgia 5.1 5.3 5.8 7.0 8.0 4.7
Ten States With Lowest Jobless Rate      
  Iowa 4.0 3.9 3.6 4.1 4.7 1.7
  Minnesota 3.8 3.7 3.6 4.1 4.8 3.0
  Arkansas 3.8 3.8 5.2 6.0 7.2 1.4
  Virginia 3.7 3.7 4.4 5.1 5.6 4.2
  Idaho 3.7 3.7 4.1 4.8 6.1 0.8
  Maine 3.7 3.5 4.4 5.6 6.6 0.7
  Colorado 3.7 3.3 3.8 4.9 6.7 2.8
  Nebraska 3.0 3.0 2.9 3.2 3.7 1.0
  New Hampshire 2.8 2.7 3.4 4.3 5.1 0.7
  South Dakota 2.7 2.5 3.1 3.4 3.8 0.5
Jobless Rate In Other Selected Large States      
  New Jersey 5.1 4.9 5.6 6.7 8.1 4.5
  Ohio 5.0 5.1 4.8 5.7 7.3 5.7
  North Carolina 4.9 5.1 5.7 6.2 7.8 4.8
  New York 4.7 4.7 5.3 6.3 7.5 9.6
  Michigan 4.6 4.7 5.4 7.1 8.5 4.7
  Florida 4.7 4.7 5.3 6.1 7.0 9.6
  Texas 4.5 4.4 4.5 5.0 6.1 13.0
  Wisconsin 4.2 4.2 4.6 5.4 6.6 3.1
  Massachusetts 4.2 4.2 4.9 5.7 6.6 3.6
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